Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “Freedom Index” polls conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
A few hundred billion here, a few trillion there: Americans are becoming used to the concept that President Obama’s response to many situations is to spend more money.
But now a new poll reveals 7 in 10 say President Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office is costing them more than money, it’s costing them their freedoms, and independents are leading the way with concerns there’s been a big decrease in their rights to express themselves, discuss their religious faith, have a bumper sticker on their vehicle and attending political rallies.
They also are highly alarmed over the invasive lengths to which government goes to spy on them using cameras, scanners, electronic health records and the like.
The results are from the March WND Freedom Index Poll, done by Wenzel Strategies. The company, an independent public opinion research firm based in Ohio, conducted a nationwide telephone poll using a randomly selected sample of all adults. The survey, including 1,095 respondents, was conducted March 15-17, 2011, and carries a confidence interval of 95% and a margin of error of +/- 2.93 percentage points.
“The plummet since this question was last asked four months ago came largely because Independents and women have grown more convinced their freedoms have eroded,” said company principal Fritz Wenzel.
“Among independents, 73 percent said they have seen a loss of freedom under President Obama, up from 65 percent four months ago. Among women, the perception that freedom has been lost under Obama increased from 60 percent to 69 percent during the same period of time,” he said.
Overall, some 90 percent of the GOP said their freedoms had declined and even 44 percent of the Democrats agreed.
The result is that the WND Freedom Index rating plunged from 49.4 in November to 46.6 today – one of its lowest points ever.
The measure assesses how Americans feel about a variety of freedoms that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution. It is based on a 100-point scale and is calculated based on poll respondents’ answers to a list of 10 questions about freedom.
An index rating of 50 is even, with ratings above that point signaling positive feelings about freedom in America and ratings below that point signaling negative feelings.
The poll revealed 70 percent of the respondents said there was a measurable decrease in personal freedoms under Obama’s rule, with 34.1 percent of the total saying there was a “big decrease.”
A little more than 44 percent of independents held that there has been a big decrease, trailing the 51 percent of Republicans who said the same thing, the poll said.
Regarding a question about whether Americans can speak their minds freely “without fear of punishment or retribution, 30 percent of independents said they feel not an all free.” Overall, 1 in 6 of the poll’s respondents was in that category.
“Asked whether the respondents believed Americans in general can speak their minds without fear of retribution or punishment of some kind, just 43 percent said they believed that was still possible, down 10 full percentage points from November,” the analysis pointed out.
Twenty-six percent of the independents said they feel great fear regarding the choices of with whom they associate. Fourteen percent of the GOP members and 10.8 percent of the Democrats were at that level of alarm.
Regarding a person’s choice of worship, and whether they will be subjected to punishment or some other penalty, 13 percent of all respondents said they have great fear. But for independents, 22.5 percent said they have great fear.
While 74 percent of all respondents said there was some intrusion by the government into their lives through invasive electronic technology, for independents, that total reached nearly to 80 percent.
“On the question of government intrusion, the controversies over airport scanning machines and other technology has clearly pushed Americans into an uneasy position, as 74 percent said they believe governments at all levels are using technology to become far too intrusive into their personal lives. This overall finding among all poll respondents is up 6 percent from November, but again, independents were much more negative in responding to the question – as 79 percent of independents said they believe governments are using too much technology to spy on citizens, which is up 12 percentage points from how independents responded in November. On this question, men were much more negative about government technology and surveillance than were women, as 77 percent of men said government was too intrusive, compared to 70 percent of women who said the same thing,” Wenzel said.
And 13.7 percent of independents said they had great fear of attending a local rally because of the threat of retribution or penalty. For Republicans that category was 5.4 percent and for Democrats 6.3 percent.
The idea of putting a bumper sticker on their vehicle raised alarms for more than 20 percent of independents, while that was below 15 percent for both Democrats and Republicans.
“Asked if respondents personally felt free to express their political or religious beliefs in a public place without fear of a backlash, 18 percent said they did not feel free, up from 14 percent last November. And asked whether they personally felt free to speak their true feelings about any subject without fear, 27 percent of respondents said they did not feel free, up from 20 percent who said the same thing four months ago,” Wenzel’s analysis said.
The result, Wenzel said, “reflects an overall growing discomfort with the individual American’s relationship with their governments at all levels, but also reflects a growing distrust of others in social settings – from workmates to supervisors to friends. While a wide variety of freedoms is guaranteed to every American, it appears that Americans are growing more and more skeptical that those freedoms are tangible in the real world in which they live today.”
About 25 percent of the respondents said they self-censor thoughts on “a given subject because of fear of harm, punishment, social rejection, or some other penalty.” That included almost 32 percent of the independents, 31 percent of the GOP and 12 percent of the Democrats.
The Freedom Index reached its lowest point of 46.4 in December 2009 during the white-hot debate over the Obamacare nationalization of health care decision-making. It also was 46.7 just one year, as the law was being signed, and also at 46.5 last July.
“The index hit its lowest point ever in December 2009 just as the U.S. Senate passed the sweeping health care reform law that would eventually be signed into law by President Obama,” Wenzel’s analysis of the results said.
“The bill has never had the support of most Americans, and it is largely thought that the Republican successes in the 2010 congressional elections was a strong backlash in response to passage of that Democratic bill,” the analysis said.